Bilal Coulibaly is the Spurs' trade-up target hiding in plain sight

Bilal Coulibaly - Boulogne Levallois v Monaco - Betclic Elite
Bilal Coulibaly - Boulogne Levallois v Monaco - Betclic Elite / Aurelien Meunier/GettyImages
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Why the Spurs would trade up for Coulibaly

By now, you'll find plenty of very in-depth analysis on Coulibaly and his game as he's shot up draft boards recently. Most recently, No Ceilings' Nathan Grubel put together a fascinating, highly-detailed timeline of Coulibaly's evolution together beginning when he played for the lower-level LNB Espoirs all the way up until he was moved up to Metropolitans 92, where he worked his way into the starting lineup and played important playoff minutes alongside Wembanyama.

The reality is, though, that drafting players with realistic developmental pathways is becoming more important than it has been over the past several seasons and that selecting the "best" player available won't be quite so simple. Thankfully, though, if the Spurs are interested in throwing the proverbial dice in a big way one last time, throwing them for Coulibaly could make a good bit of sense.

Despite bursting with potential, Coulibaly isn't quite ready for a starting role in the NBA yet. He's made significant improvements to his jump shot, both off the catch and off the dribble, in the past two seasons, but it still isn't quite where it needs to be and his free-throw shooting is reason for some concern. But coming off the bench in San Antonio, he won't be rushed to develop his offense. In all likelihood, he'll be playing alongside some combination of Malaki Branham, Blake Wesley, and Sandro Mamukelashvili, all of whom should be the top offensive options off the bench.

On the flip side of that coin, Branham, Wesley, and Mamukelashvili aren't exactly known for their defense at this point in their careers, and that's where Coulibaly can fill in. Coulibaly would immediately serve as the bench unit's most versatile, multipositional defender that could face other teams' best bench scorers on the perimeter. On offense, he could play off of the Spurs' more talented bench threats as a spot-up shooter and cutter, slowly expanding his game from there. But if that's all he ever becomes, he still has the versatility to be a highly useful role player in several lineups.

What if Coulibaly reaches his ceiling?

This is where the conversation gets a bit more interesting. Outside of some of the top wing players in his draft class (i.e., the Thompson twins and Cam Whitmore), you'll be hard-pressed to find another wing with the two-way upside. Coulibaly will have to continue developing as a ball handler and shooter for that to happen, but if he can add those elements to his game with his already-existing rim pressure, those are the makings of a dangerous two-way wing.

The Spurs seemingly haven't expressed much desire to trade Keldon Johnson, and if I'm the Spurs' front office, I'm not exactly in a rush to do so unless they think the return could be tremendous. But were Coulibaly to really come into his own as an offensive threat, Johnson could become a highly tradeable asset given his offensive production and increasingly affordable contract. If the Spurs find that they're in a position where they need more depth or more generally just can't get over the "hump" for another championship, having the means to deal Johnson in a trade down the line could be crucial.

Coulibaly is young enough to where brain plasticity may not be as much of a concern when it comes to his ball-handling development, and given some of the flashes he's shown before his time with Metropolitans 92, I'm optimistic that this is something that could come with time. Furthermore, the Spurs' hiring of a new shooting coach indicates to me that they're committed to continuing their success with developing prospects whose jump shots need work coming into the league.